ILWU, PMA to soon consider contract extension in November

ILWU, PMA to soon consider contract extension in November
Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior Editor | Sep 27, 2016 3:40PM EDT
An agreement to extend contracts early from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and International Longshoremen’s Association would usher in an unprecedented era of labor peace at US ports.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association on Tuesday raised shippers’ hopes for a longer period of labor peace at US West Coast ports with the joint announcement that they will consider a contract extension during early November talks.

In their joint statement, the ILWU and PMA proceeded cautiously by saying that at the Nov. 1 to Nov. 2 talks in San Francisco they will discuss only the “concept” of a contract extension. The exploratory talks will focus on the issues that would be addressed if the two sides agree to move into formal contract extension negotiations.

The current waterfront contract, which is set to expire on July 1, 2019, was achieved only after a tumultuous period of ILWU work slowdowns and retaliation by the PMA that began on Oct. 31, 2014 and ended on Feb. 20, 2015, with a tentative contract agreement that was later ratified by both parties. The West Coast port congestion spawned by the labor disruptions continued until the summer of 2015.

Employers believe that if a contract extension is to be reached, the clearest path would be to limit the negotiations to basic terms such as wages, benefits, and the length of the extension. In contrast, the negotiations that take place every three or six years for a new contract involve dozens of issues ranging from jurisdiction to arbitration procedures and take months to complete.

Organizations that represent beneficial cargo owners have been quite vocal the past year in encouraging the PMA and ILWU to engage in contract extension talks in order to ensure importers and exporters as many years as possible of labor peace so they can engage in long-term supply chain planning.

Similarly, BCOs are encouraging the International Longshoremen’s Association and United States Maritime Alliance to explore extension talks for their contract that is set to expire on Sept. 1, 2018.

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